The relationship of the ZIka virus to the development of microcephaly has certainly been receiving a lot of attention in the news lately, and with good reason. Microcephaly is a devastating, although rare, consequence of this viral infection, and it is for this reason that we are now seeing recommendations that women who are pregnant, or are considering pregnancy, avoid going to places where Zika infection is possible.
But the story is now becoming more complicated and worrisome. We are now seeing research that indicates that the Zika virus has a predilection for attacking cells in the brain’s memory center, in adults. Continue reading
With each new emerging infectious disease threat, there’s generally a background misguided sense that scientists at our top research institutions are hard at work and will soon present us with a miraculous magic bullet to stamp out this challenge to our collective health. While researchers are indeed looking to develop a pharmaceutical-based therapeutic strategy for Zika, it may be many years until such a drug is finally developed, tested, and ultimately cleared for general use.
Not to be deterred, a group of researchers at the University of Texas went about responding to this challenge by evaluating how the Zika infection might respond to drugs that are already FDA-approved to treat other illnesses or diseases. They reasoned that, if such a drug could be identified, doctors could then prescribe it under the premise of off-label application. Drugs are frequently used by physicians and other healthcare providers for reasons other than those for which they were developed. For example, various blood pressure medications are often used to help patients reduce the frequency of their migraine headaches. A handful of epilepsy drugs are often helpful for people with various pain problems like fibromyalgia. Continue reading
Dr. Michael Callahan is CEO and co-founder of the Zika Foundation. He is a highly respected “physician scientist”, who is board-certified in internal medicine, infectious disease, tropical medicine and mass casualty care, and is on both the clinical and research faculty at Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School.
Dr. Callahan has clinical appointments globally, including in Thailand, Indonesia, Panama, and Nigeria. From 2005-2012, Dr. Callahan established Prophecy, the first rapid deployment clinical research capability for catastrophic infectious diseases outbreaks, such as Ebola.
War has been declared against Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, carriers of the dreaded Zika virus. With some pretty solid evidence linking Zika to microcephaly, as well as Guillian-Barre syndrome, governments in affected countries are going all out as they attempt to reduce mosquito populations.
Predictions now anticipate that Zika virus will soon find its way into North America. So the images of trucks fogging neighborhoods in Brazil, that have become so common in the news as this problem worsens, may soon become real-life experiences for Americans in Florida and other southern states.